From: Stefan Moernaut <email@example.com>
[Some notes before starting. First, keep in mind that the writer is writing from the UK, so Intercord and Sire releases are considered imports. Also note that since the time of this article, (1991) we have seen the release of the Singles Boxes 1, 2, and 3. A number of the tracks that are listed as never having been on CD were put on these discs. (For example, the US rerelease of the Strangelove single includes both Fimpf and The Blind Mix) - Ross]
[Thanks to Graham Needham who found this article re-printed here some 4 years after its original posting. He graciously noted it and said all he wanted was a link to his site, which I am happy to do. You can find more of his work at: http://www.cybernoise.com/ (Will open a new window). - Ross]
Depeche Mode Chronicles:
A review of the Depeche Mode Box-Sets
Up until now there have been three main sources for obtaining Depeche Mode on Compact Disc. The UK, US and Germany have between them issued most of the band's output on CD. In this issue we investigate Japan's bold step into this market with their twin CD box sets Chronicles 1 and 2. Each set appears to be selling for around 40 British Pounds in the UK but is it really worth it for the casual fan or the collector alike?
The first thing that strikes you when you receive the two boxes is the packaging. Luxurious black boxes, each holding four compact disks and two booklets. This is the sort of thing you would expect from Mute. In actual fact, the packages are designed by T+CP Associates who do most of Depeche Mode's sleeves. There are two booklets in each box set, one of them is the same for both boxes (a list of Japan's Depeche Mode back catalogue) and the other is a booklet of track listings and track information. Once you get past all the packaging and into the set itself you find that each box set contains four compact disks. Each CD is the usual thick jewel box and each disk has no real information on it. The disks are mainly black and they all have half of a large number denoting which disk it is. Each CD box has a single insert that depicts the number of the CD using symbols that have been used by Depeche Mode throughout their career including hammers, megaphones and various flowers.
The first set ("X1" as it is called) has three disks of 12" mixes and one of so called strange mixes. The second set ("X2") has a disk of instrumentals, one of B-Sides and two disks with live tracks on. It's nice to see that the eight discs have been split into two boxes and made available seperately and also that the boxes have been split well, offering differing music in each. The first set bodes well for club/dance oriented fans and the second set lends itself to those with an interest in Mode's live and more unorthodox tracks.
The number of tracks on the eight CDs total 79 and as box sets go that's quite a good figure. At around 40 British Pounds per box it works out at roughly 1 British Pound per track. Simply on that basis both sets are not a bad investment, but what if you're a Depeche Mode fan, record or CD collector?
Track By Track
The track listings that follow are the actual track listings not the ones listed on the CDs, the booklets or in adverts. * - Until now these tracks have not officially appeared on compact disc anywhere in the world.
BOX SET #1
Disc 1, The Twelve Inches #1
Of the eight tracks, there are three that have not appeared on CD before. There is a nice surprise on this CD in the form of the Black and Blue Mix of Master & Servant as this mix was only ever issued on an American 12" single and so most collectors won't have it. The remix has been done by the ON-USound crew and is different from the remix they did for the UK limited edition 12" (L12BONG6). Out of the other two non-CD tracks the Pain Mix of Strangelove appeared on the limited edition 12" of Strangelove (L12BONG13) and the Beatmasters mix of Route 66 appeared on the standard 12" of Behind the Wheel (12BONG15).
The remaining five tracks have all been issued on CD singles in the UK but only the Shep Petibone mix of Behind The Wheel appeard on a standard CD single, the rest were all on limited edition CD singles. This disc has a good selection of tracks but it does suffer from the fact that it is a little disappointing seeing so many recent remixes.
Disc 2, The Twelve Inches Mixes #2
After the normality of the first disc the second disc reveals some abnormalities. The first of these is that the disc has nine tracks listed but it really has ten. Track four is listed as just being the New Town Mix of A Question Of Time. This mix originally appeared on the limited edition 12" of A Question Of Time (L12BONG12) and on this same 12", a live remix of A Question Of Time follows directly after the New Town Remix. For some reason this second mix is also included on the disc but is not listed. I'm not complaining mind you, as neither of these tracks have appeard on CD before. The second abnormality is that track 2 is listed as Shake The Disease (Edit The Shake) which appeared on the limited edition 12" of Shake The Disease (L12BONG8), when in fact it is the extended remix of Shake The Disease formally on the standard 12" (12BONG8). Once again there is no complaint as the extended remix has not appeard on CD before whereas the Edit The Shake mix has. The one other track not to appear on CD before is the Black Tulip mix of Black Celebration which also appeared on the limited edition 12" of A Question Of Time (L12BONG12). All the other tracks have appeared on CD previously but they have only been issued on limited edition or import CD singles. The inclusion of the Absolut Mix (please note no "E") of Everything Counts is a nice bonus as this mix only appeared on CD before as a track on a US promo CD single (PROCD3485) and even then only in the UK on a 12" promo (P12BONG16) and a 12" limited edition (10BONG16).
This disc is a very good one as it combines five older remixes with five newer ones and includes a good selection of either tracks unreleased on CD before or mixes that only appeared on limited editions.
Disc 3, The Twelve Inches #3
Disc Three runs in at over sixty five minutes with just nine tracks. There are no surprises here and there is only one track not to appear on CD before. This track is the Blind Mix of Strangelove which originally appeared on the limited edition 12" of Strangelove (L12BONG13). Out of the remaining eight tracks only three of them have appeared on CD in the UK (Never Let Me Down Again, Personal Jesus and Enjoy The Silence). The other five tracks have only been available on import CD singles.
Most of the tracks are mixes that appeared on standard 12" singles so most people should have these on vinyl already. Of course if you're collecting compact discs it is a different matter as most of these mixes only appear on import CD singles. So although there are no realsurprises on this CD, the inclusion of some older tracks is most welcomed and the disc will certainly be of interest to most UK collectors.
Disc 4, Strange Mixes
After the first three discs clocking in at well over three hours of music this disc makes you wonder if they got bored putting the final disc in this set together. The disc scrapes thrity seven minutes of music out of just seven tracks which is pretty pathetic. Only one mix unavailable on CD before but there is probably a good reason for this as it's not very mainstream. In fact this disc is the best place for this remix of People Are People to be as it is indeed rather strange. The track in question is Are People People? which was on the limited edition 12" of Master and Servant (L12BONG6).
There are far more mixes that deserved to be included on a disc titled Strange Mixes that haven't had a CD release before and there is plenty of space on this disc for them. I've got some US CD "singles" (Depeche Mode included) that have more music than this disc has. Well you can't have it all good and this disc certainly is the bad one of the first box.
The three good discs make up for the weak fourth. It would certainly cost you more than this box costs to obtain all of the tracks present, either on CD or on their original limited edition and standard 12" releases. Even compact disc collectors have a fair choice of material that hasn't been released before. This set is well worth the money and is highly recommended to any Depeche Mode fan.
One thought on the reason for lack of early material in this set is that a majority of fans especially in Japan will have been introduced to Depeche Mode with the newer material. This set will therefore give them what they know and will also encourage them to seek out the earlier material themselves.
BOX SET #2
Disc 5, Instrumentals
Disc Five is a little interesting to say the least. Putting 55 minutes of instrumentals together can sometimes be a big turn off to some people. This CD can be fairly hard to listen to but either by luck or someone's good sense the disc tends to have a few slow ones followed by a good or fairly up-tempo track. This means if you listen hard you can ususally get from the beginning to the end of the CD without having to skip anything. I would guess though that since most people have programmable CD players they will probably find themselves programming this disc to skip the tracks they don't like. Thankfully there are a fair number of tracks on this disc and people should usually like at least half of them. Where have the tracks come from? Well all of them are B-sides or extra tracks on 12" singles and this is why all but ones have had a CD release before (except Fpmip, originally on the limited edtion 12" of Strangelove (L12BONG13)). However since most of these tracks are only available on German CD singles, this disc will be favoured here in the UK.
Disc 6, B-Sides
What could have been a fairly bad disc is in actual fact a good one. Disc Six has a selection of vocal B-sides as opposed to Disc Five's instrumentals. Any Second Now (Voices) is rather out of place as this mix didn't actually turn up on the B-side of a single, it was an album track. If you have all of Depeche Mode's 7" singles then you will certainly have all these tracks already. The choice of B-sides is very good ranging from their first, Ice machine to Route 66, the flip of Behind The Wheel. It is also interesting to note that they are in chronological order. There are four tracks on this disc that haven't appeared on CD before. These four tracks are all 7" versions and it is their 12" counterparts that have had the CD releases. With at least twenty 7" B- sides to have chosen from, this selection is a very good one. Although none of these tracks are particulary rare (the first B-side being available on the CD album of Speak & Spell (CDSTUMM5)) and so apart from the unreleased CD tracks there isn't much here for collectors.
Disc 7, Live #1
This is almost solely made up of tracks from the Hammersmith Odeon concerts in October 1982 and here lies the initial disappointment for compact disc collectors. A few years back Germany and France issued a five CD single set with each disc having a selection of live tracks previously issued on 12" single here in the UK (L12BONG2, L12BONG3, L12BONG4, 12BONG7, 12BONG12). If you own this five CD set or the five 12" singles you basically have disc seven already.
The final track is taken from the limited edition 12" of A Question Of Time (L12BONG12) and in fact means that all the tracks from this limited 12" have now been issued on CD. What is of more interest (and will be appreciated by people who have these live tracks already) is that the tracks have been remastered. There is no credit to this on the disc or in the booklet but is clearly evident especially on the last track of the disc. Basically the sound is much clearer and when it is played loud sounds much more realistic, as if you were actually there. Also when the Hammersmith Odeon tracks were originally issued they were split up, now they are back in the correct order that they were played at the concert. This would certainly explain the reason for the remastering if someone had used the original master recording of the concert.
For people who haven't got these live tracks this disc will naturally be appreciated even though all the live tracks previously issued from the Hammersmith Odeon concerts are not here. Those who have these tracks already should appreciate the remastered versions more than those originally issued.
Disc 8, Live #2
The first statement I would like to make is that the booklet for this disc is almost completely useless. After lengthy research I discovered that out of the twelve tracks, the booklet only manages to get the credits right for two tracks (the correct listing is that listed above). All the credits are actually there but simply listed in the wrong place under the wrong tracks. One track doesn't even have credits!
Immediately apparent is that the second live disc is compiled completely different to that of the first one. Most important is the inclusion of the four tracks previously unrelased on CD before. Three of these tracks, If You Want, Shame and Blasphemous Rumours originally appeared on the cassette single of A Question Of Lust (CBONG11) whereas the reming track Told You So originally appeared on the 7" EP of Blasphemous Rumours (7BONG7E). Four of the remaing tracks appear on the 101 live set and this is a strange choice as most people will have these tracks already. The remaining tracks have all been issued on CD before and are also easily available on vinyl in the UK on the standard 12" singles of Blasphemous Rumours (12BONG7) and A Question Of Time (12BONG12)
Overall this second set of four discs is not quite as good as the first box but it is still appealing in various ways. If you are already a Depeche Mode collector and you have the set of five import live CDs (or their 12" equivalents), the live album 101 and all the 7" singles, then this second box set is not going to look very convincing to you. If it wasn't for the tracks that haven't had a CD release before and the remastered live tracks then this set could have been a waste of money. Luckily someone made the right choices. However if you don't own a lot of Depeche Mode material then this set will be a very good addition to your collection.
General Information about X1 and X2.
Track Listing for all discs.
Art and design information and comments.
Original releases of the tracks are listed here.
Comments from people viewing this site.